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ObamaCare: still in flux, and still in trouble

The Affordable Care Act is rewritten yet again, while some key business supporters grow weary of Obama’s games.

While everyone was digesting their Thanksgiving feasts, Barack Obama set about rewriting his “signature achievement” yet again.  Funny how he likes to do that when the American people are distracted.

The New York Post runs down the latest changes:

Obama will require large employers to provide more coverage than the Affordable Care Act specifies. The move disqualifies plans now offered by 1,600 employers to 3 million workers, according to Kaiser Health News. Those employers will have to find a way to cover the higher costs ?? and some will surely do so by stopping coverage for spouses or part-time workers.

The new rules suddenly treat state high-risk pools as adequate coverage under the Affordable Care Act ?? a 180 from what the law actually says.
When the ACA became law, these plans for people with chronic illnesses were offered in 35 states. Winners will be those who live in the 10 states that haven??t yet phased out their high-risk plans. Losers: the many thousands in 25 states that already gave up their plans to comply with the ACA??s mandates.

The rules tell insurers to give new enrollees a 30-day grace period during which they can continue to use doctors not in their plan??s network. Winners: people who need time to switch to in-network doctors. Losers: taxpayers ?? who??ll be obliged to bail out the insurers clobbered with the extra cost.

Speaking of bailouts, Section 1342 of the law promises taxpayer-funded bailouts to insurers that lose money selling plans on ObamaCare exchanges. But the bailouts can??t happen unless Congress appropriates the money, something the GOP-controlled Congress won??t want to do. Yet the new Federal Register notices explicitly double down on the administration??s pledge to make insurers whole if losses are bigger than expected.

Man, unconstitutional imperial government is exhausting.  You never know when the next big rewrite of a law by executive fiat could happen.  Things were much less exciting when we had a legislature that debated legal revisions at length before voting on them.

As the Post notes sarcastically, one of these changes involves Obama “‘asking’ insurers to pay for new benefits – while warning that, if they don’t, they may be forced to.”  An offer you can’t refuse!  Gangster government is even more exciting than imperial government!

This all seems like a great deal of trouble to go through for an unpopular failed law that’s probably going to die in front of the Supreme Court anyway.  Big Business, which played ball with ObamaCare for the same reason they support every Big Government edict that dumps big costs on smaller competitors, seems to be running out of patience with these games.  Reuters reports a bit of pushback from CEOs over the Administration’s legal challenge to corporate wellness programs:

The programs aim to control healthcare costs by reducing smoking, obesity, hypertension and other risk factors that can lead to expensive illnesses. A bipartisan provision in the 2010 healthcare reform law allows employers to reward workers who participate and penalize those who don’t.

But recent lawsuits filed by the administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), challenging the programs at Honeywell International and two smaller companies, have thrown the future of that part of Obamacare into doubt.

The lawsuits infuriated some large employers so much that they are considering aligning themselves with Obama’s opponents, according to people familiar with the executives’ thinking.

“The fact that the EEOC sued is shocking to our members,” said Maria Ghazal, vice-president and counsel at the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives of more than 200 large U.S. corporations. “They don’t understand why a plan in compliance with the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is the target of a lawsuit,” she said. “This is a major issue to our members.”

“There have been conversations at the most senior levels of the administration about this,” she added.

The problem is that wellness programs run afoul of venerable bureaucratic edicts that forbid companies to nose around in their employee’s lives:

Obamacare allows financial incentives for workers taking part in workplace wellness programs of up to 50 percent of their monthly premiums, deductibles, and other costs. That translates into hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in extra annual costs for those who do not participate.

Typically, participation means filling out detailed health questionnaires, undergoing medical screenings, and in some cases attending weight-loss or smoking-cessation programs.

One of the arguments presented in the lawsuit against three employers is that requiring medical testing violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That 1990 law, according to employment-law attorney Joseph Lazzarotti of Jackson Lewis P.C. in Morristown, N.J., largely prohibits requiring medical tests as part of employment.

“You can’t make medical inquiries unless it’s consistent with job-necessity, or part of a voluntary wellness program,” he said.

The lawsuits are based on the view that it is no longer voluntary if employees face up to $4,000 in penalties for non-participation, loss of insurance or even their jobs.

Gee, that sounds a lot like the way Obama tells businesses they must “voluntarily” offer various benefits or face the threat of coercive force.  Given that wellness programs were viewed as a highly desirable means of cutting corporate welfare costs, and putting a little muscle behind them was a huge element in winning Big Business support for ObamaCare, it seems odd that these legal conflicts weren’t anticipated and settled long ago.  Of course, given that ObamaCare’s true and secret agenda is to destroy private health insurance altogether, its dishonest architects are probably delighted at the thought of irate corporations cutting back on the benefits they provide, demanding more of a financial contribution from employees, or even dumping their workforce into the ObamaCare public exchanges.  The Reuters article mentions giving workers “a fixed amount of money to buy coverage on a private insurance exchange” as one of the cost-capping measures corporations may consider.

The Obama Administration finally admitted that insurance premiums are going up in 2015, which is of course the exact opposite of what Obama promised when he was pushing this turkey of a program, but he’ll probably whip out some spreadsheet Jonathan Gruber cooked up for him that “proves” premiums would have gone up a billion percent without ObamaCare.  Democrats are still coming to terms with the fact that ObamaCare hurt them in 2014 a lot more than their political witch doctors assured them it would, which is making them nervous about the implications for 2016.  Before the passage of ObamaCare, polls said a majority of Americans thought the government had a responsibility to ensure everyone has health insurance; now a majority says the government should not assume that responsibility, with the latest Gallup poll margin standing at 52-45 against.  Disapproval is down a bit from the hellish days after the failed launch of HealthCareDotGov, which is not surprising, but still consistent with the opinion flip that occurred once people got a load of what government-controlled health insurance looks like.

In sum, both the concept and execution of ObamaCare are alienating the public, and the particulars are beginning to annoy the power players who provided crucial support for its passage.  The rule of law lies in tatters, because the Affordable Care Act seems to be written in pencil.  Doom is coming for the federal exchange, because it’s increasingly clear the law does not allow it to dispense subsidies.  Let that be the end of ObamaCare, and let’s start putting both our Constitutional system and health care back together again.

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Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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